It’s one thing to get a little nostalgic from time to time. We all do it. Listening to old airchecks on how things “used to be.” It’s fun to reminisce. It was an era that inspired me to wanna do radio as a career. It was an incredible time. However, to think things can still be like that, you are not being very honest with yourself. Change is inevitable. It scares the shit out of some people. I get it, to a point. I’ve never been wired like that personally. To really be successful in this industry or really any other for that matter, you have to embrace change. In my mind, change is exciting and keeps things new. It’s the key to success. Things simply can’t stay the same, nor should they.
As time evolves, so does the technology and so does the consumer. Unfortunately in some cases, the business model did not.. So big box retail giants like Sears and Kmart became Amazon. Airline’s business models evolved from serving full meals on domestic flights to now charging for bags or to be first on board. The ones that didn’t like Eastern and TWA were gone. TV newscasts we’re full of big entertaining personalities, not about looks or who favors what political party. If a young Larry King or Oprah came through today, they most likely would not get hired. Many local TV newscasts now look like Vogue meets GQ. Many TV reporters now go on assignments by themselves and work their own camera.
And then we have radio.. once live and local across every day part, even overnights. Monster promotions budgets. I once had a staff of 52 people who would report to me as Program Director only 10 years ago. If that didn’t change by now, the company would’ve been long gone years ago.
Things began to change in the 2000’s, corporations going public and constantly having to meet stockholders demands, meant cutting more and more of the product. Before the cutting, places like Washington DC, 1999… WPGC and WJFK-FM would bill $98 million together. Today those #’s have been cut by over 60%. Radio revenue has been almost on a constant decline since 2008. Veteran news anchors, big morning and afternoon shows have been victim. The promotions and marketing was cut in most cases and would allow new forms of competition to spawn.
Tablets now playing everything from Netflix and YouTube to TikTok and podcasts. This is the new form of TV and Radio. Of course it is for now.. as you have seen, nothing is permanent. The only thing constant in life is change. For radio.. it’s been Live & Local, Syndication, Satellite, Automation, VoiceTracking and now.. AI..
AI, If used properly AS A TOOL for a certain percentage/ratio of a living, breathing, talent’s voice-tracked show, has the ability to localize instantly without a talent having to redo a track. Track a night show earlier in the day and the local team just won a playoff game? You just gave out the sports score and celebrated the win for your local team without having to record a new track. Riots breaking out downtown? You, the talent.. just went on the air within seconds to talk about what’s going on. I-95 in Philly just collapsed on an early Sunday morning and everyone is voice tracked? You are on the air with non stop coverage.
Here’s why if you are really that good, you shouldn’t be worried as a talent. It can’t do life experiences. That’s where you come in and do your magic.. Not AI. It can’t. AI can put talent back on in day parts where there has been no talent on air for years, even overnights. AI can make a talent sound more plugged in than ever, again if it is used properly. There are many live talents that like being local. This can be extremely beneficial.
Moving forward.. AI will affect every aspect of our life in all shapes and forms, in all industries. It ain’t going away. You can either embrace it or you can push back like many did during the voice tracking phase 20 years ago and were shown the door. If you are a talent who talks for 6 seconds and relies on the music to carry you, your lifespan in a changing world will be short. If you are a 5 star pro and are entertaining, funny, share life experiences by telling stories and sharing your life, you will connect and be very successful.
Things are evolving fast. New technologies like AI will be a “part” of many future business models in and outside of radio. Its vital to radio’s survival moving forward, otherwise radio will be the next Sears and Kmart.